Joseph Reid to Paul Smith, September 15, 1955

Joseph Reid, the Executive Director of the Child Welfare League of America, wrote the following letter of protest to the editor of the Woman’s Home Companion after Pearl Buck’s “The Children Waiting: The Shocking Scandal of Adoption” appeared in the September 1955 issue of that magazine.

Dear Mr. Smith:

Miss Buck’s article contains many statements which are inaccurate and grossly misleading. We request, therefore, that this letter be printed in a forthcoming issue [of the Woman’s Home Companion] to correct certain misstatements which, if accepted by your readers, would result in harm to the welfare of children. . . .

The article as at best not factual and at worst verges on the slanderous. The general impression is that child welfare agencies for a variety of unsupported reasons are refusing to make available children who are clamoring for adoption. This is not true.

The following are paraphrases of some of the assertions made by Miss Buck which we believe to be in serious error, together with our presentation of the facts as we know them.

1) “Most children in institutions could be made available for adoption. Their parents have abandoned them.”

REPLY: There are about 100,000 children in institutions. Less than 3 per cent are full orphans. Others have at least one living parent. Over half of all children in institutions are returned to their own homes after an average stay of 1.7 years away. . . . Research studies have indicated that from 12 to 18 per cent of older children in foster care can be made available for adoption if adoption agencies were able to untangle the legal barriers which now hold them and could find homes for them. These children constitute a real and tragic problem, but the article seriously distorts the facts by leading readers to believe that all of the children could be placed and that institutions are not needed. . . .

2) ”Orphanages are maintained to supply jobs for staff. Institutions keep children for selfish motives.”

REPLY: . . . A nation-wide study reveals 15 jobs for every trained social worker in the country. It is nonsense to state that children are being retained in institutions merely to supply jobs for staff. Social workers can have their pick of a variety of positions in their field.

3) “Religion is the strongest force in keeping children from being adopted.”

REPLY: Many states have legislation requiring that children be placed in homes of their own religious faith. Regardless of the merit of such laws, they do not prevent children from being adopted. Our estimates show that at least six Catholic families apply for each Catholic child available for adoption; ten Protestant families seek each Protestant child; and there are even more Jewish families for every adoptable Jewish child. . . . The only exception to this statement applies to non-white children. There is an extreme shortages of adoptive homes for non-white children of all faiths. . . .

The basic problem in present child welfare practices is not venality or selfishness. It is public apathy, lack of funds, and lack of public understanding. . . . The nation’s child care programs reflect what the public is willing to pay for. It is misleading to talk about this problem without discussing costs. Good child care is not cheap. Those who know the nature of the problem must be determined and outspoken about it. . . . Name calling is not the answer.

Sincerely yours,

Joseph H. Reid
Executive Director, Child Welfare League of America

Source: Joseph Reid to Paul Smith, September 15, 1955, Child Welfare League of America Papers, Box 15, Folder 7, Social Welfare History Archives, University of Minnesota.
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